Mirror on the Wall

So far, so good.  I’m working on formatting the e-book tonight, so everything is on schedule and Mirror on the Wall should be out in e-book soon, with the print version to follow when I get it done.  It’s going to work out to around 70 pages in print, with a few illustrations.  I decided not to experiment with Amazon Select this time, so it will be on Nook and Smashwords and eventually the iBookstore and Kobo.  Here’s the first few pages, roughly what I’ll be putting on my website as the sample.

Mirror on the Wall

by Lisa Anne Nisula

We lied when Father died because we had to. At least that’s what she said. We were sitting at dinner―roast chicken and root vegetables, after leek and potato soup―and the dessert, apple trifle, had just come out.

Father started first, of course. Royalty was served before anyone else. The queen piled cake and berries on my plate, trying to bribe me with sweets for some unknown reason. “Go on, dear, eat up. It’s good.” She licked the cream off the spoon and rolled her eyes like it was the best thing she’d ever tasted.

I didn’t like her, so in the contrary way of a seven-year-old, I took my time before starting my dessert, picking up my spoon and carefully arranging the cream so it covered the plate smoothly before I took a spoonful and studied it, making sure it was exactly one-third cake, one-third fruit, and one-third cream.

And then he collapsed on the table. The guards moved in and, in less than a breath, they had surrounded us. The queen was leaning over Father, feeling his neck. She shook her head.

Samson, the captain of the guard, stepped forward and touched Father’s neck himself, not to contradict the queen, but to confirm it, although the queen seemed mad at him anyway.

“Your Highness, no one entered this room, no hand touched the food. I will speak to the physician, but I was not aware of any sickness.”

The queen, I suppose I should have called her “Stepmother” or “Calida” at least, shook her head. “Poison.” She grabbed a slice of fruit from the plate and flung it at the fire. There was a snap, like a cracker tossed in, then a flare of lime-green light filled the hearth.

“Your Highness?”

“It’s dragonwort. Tasteless and deadly, and favored by those in Cathguard.”

There were gasps, but why anyone would be surprised that Cathguard would want to kill Father surprised me more. I’d been hearing tales of their treachery since I was in the cradle.

One of the guards with more sense than the others grabbed the plates from the table and the spoon from my hand. “Your Majesty is lucky you did not―” but he didn’t finish. He’d seen Queen Calida’s spoon was streaked with cream.

“As I said, dragonwort is favored by those in Cathguard; I felt it prudent to develop a tolerance for it. I tried to convince him, but―”

“So we must find the source. The stairs are guarded.”

“Then we must look to the kitchens. I would hate to think Melba would be capable of . . .”

Accusing the cook loosened my tongue. “I was with her this afternoon. She couldn’t have done it.” I left out that I had helped chop the fruit and layer the cream. The queen didn’t like me spending time in the kitchens.

Captain Samson nodded. “If Princess Snow White can confirm that, then we must look elsewhere.”

“So it would seem.” The queen glared at me, presumably for admitting to being in the kitchens. “We should not let Cathguard know they succeeded. Then they will think we are weak and come to take the throne and throw us all into exile or the darkest of dungeons. This must be kept a secret; you are all ordered to tell no one.”

“As you command. We will move him to the chapel.”

They were ignoring me, so I snuck out between two guards at the kitchen stairs―they both pretended not to notice―and crept down to the kitchens. It was warm there, and bustling now that dinner had been cleared. I found a corner by the fire and sat to think.

“Problems, Snow?”

I didn’t know if “tell no one” included servants or not. They’d find out on their own twice as fast as any spy, but, while I was contrary, I was also a princess, and I wouldn’t betray the kingdom. I huddled back in the corner.

Melba shrugged. “When you’re ready to talk.” She went back to work and let me be miserable. She was used to me and to my moods and doted on me like her faraway daughter ever since a four-year-old princess had been bored and found her way to the room where the cookies came from.

No one came looking for me that evening; everyone was too busy questioning each other. I wasn’t a suspect, so no one was interested in me. I spent the time by the cheery fire, sipping milk tea, shelling peas, and running around the kitchen making a nuisance of myself, although I didn’t know it.

The next morning, the castle was full of guards. Everywhere I looked, there was someone in armor clanking around, talking about Cathguard spies. No one noticed me as I ate my toast and honey. When I’d finished, there was no maid or guard to take me up to the classroom and Master Beaufield. I didn’t need anyone; I was old enough to find my own way there, but it wasn’t normal. I’d made it all the way to the schoolroom door when I started thinking, no one would notice if I didn’t go inside, not right away. Master Beaufield would think I was being kept away for a good reason, and whoever was supposed to bring me―usually it was Lieutenant Conrad or Daisy the drawing room maid―would think someone else had come for me. I liked Master Beaufield well enough, and he taught my favorite doll, Annie, along with me, but it was my first break of freedom and I didn’t want to waste it sitting at lessons. Annie agreed with me, so we ran to the servants’ stairs and made our way to the kitchen.

Melba was at the table, working out the five courses that would be needed for lunch. I sat at a small table near the window and used the discarded turnip leaves and nutshells to make a tea set for us.

Melba came by and put two chipped cups in front of me. “Poor child.” I wondered who she meant since Annie seemed quite comfortable.

“Would Annie like some fried sugar dough?”

Fried sugar dough was a favorite of mine. I nodded.

“Would you like to help make it?” She held out her hand and I went with her to the big table. She lifted me onto the stool and left me with a ball of dough to make shapes from and sugar to dunk them in before I ate them. It was like playing with sugary clay, and no one noticed if a few bits of uncooked dough wound up in my mouth.

When Melba had a free minute from her trout, and turnip soup, and braised quail, she fried my dough masterpieces and set them out with a pitcher of milk for me and Annie to share.

When Annie and I had finished our snack, Melba sent us back upstairs for our delayed lessons. I expected Master Beaufield to be mad, and I practiced excuses all the way to the door, but when I got there, I heard music. I peered around the door and saw Master Beaufield at the piano, sheets of half-written music paper around him. I crept to my seat. Maybe he’d think I’d been there the whole time.

As Master Beaufield grabbed up his pen to write a few notes, he caught sight of me out of the corner of his eye.

“Princess Snow White, um, it seems we’re beginning lessons a little late.” He smiled sheepishly.

I realized he wasn’t mad about missing my morning lessons at all. “We’re almost on time.”

“So we are. Let’s begin then. Proper posture is the foundation of both dance and poise.”

Since Master Beaufield didn’t mind the extra time for his writing, only the queen finding out about it, I snuck back to the kitchen before breakfast the next morning, and most mornings after that. That’s how I found out about the state visit with the king of Cathguard and his son.

That morning, Melba was rushing around the kitchen when I got there. Instead of mixing up the batter for pancakes or seasoning potatoes for frying, she was at the table with two dairymaids. “See if you can get an extra five dozen eggs anywhere. And she wants a custard for dessert. See what you can do. We have a week. How she expects a royal feast in a week, I don’t know.”

I climbed into my chair and helped Melba by adding pepper to the sliced potatoes in the pan. I wasn’t sure how much to add, so I ground a bit more in, twice since the pepper mill was fun to use.

“Then we’ll need milk for all of that. Enough, Snow. I’ll take the pepper.” I handed it over, but Melba didn’t seem to need it for anything. She went to the back door to talk to the gardener. I grabbed the pan and brought it to the fire so she could fry the potatoes.

“I’ve got that.” One of the kitchen maids grabbed the pan from me before I dropped the potatoes into the fire. Melba turned, still discussing how many apples they could count on. I thought she was going to say something to me, but a footman ran down the stairs. “Melba, message for you.”

I followed at Melba’s heels as she went to get the note. She turned and almost fell over me. “Tom, see if you can catch the dairymaids. We won’t need the eggs after all.”

Tom ran for the door.

“Call the huntsman. Tell him we need a deer. And get as many apples as possible from the orchard. Apparently boar and custard aren’t good enough for Cathguard.”

“Cathguard?” I asked.

Melba turned and almost fell into me. “They’re paying a state visit next week. Did you catch them, Tom?”

“Yes, ma’am, but I hope she doesn’t go back to custard. I don’t want to deliver the message if she does.”

I picked up the milk picture and followed Melba back to the table, or so I thought. She stopped at the cupboard to check the supply of herbs and I bumped into her, sloshing milk on the floor. Cora hurried to sop it up.

Melba took the picture. “Snow, honey, maybe you should have breakfast upstairs.” I thought she was getting rid of me until she added, “I’ll make something special for your breakfast, but you don’t want to spoil the surprise. Just until Cathguard leaves.”

I wanted to stay in the kitchen, but the treat sounded almost as good. “All right.”

Melba sent jam tarts just for my breakfast. The queen sneezed as she started on her fried potatoes. She looked around for her glass and noticed me.

“You’ll need a guard to watch you while they’re here. Captain Samson, stay with her.”

I made a face; I didn’t like the burly, bristly man, and I suspected he didn’t like children.

Lieutenant Conrad interrupted. “Your Highness, you’re too valuable to the realm. You should have the most experienced guards. I’ll watch the princess.”

I ran to Conrad and stood near him. I didn’t like having any guard in the castle―it meant I couldn’t visit the kitchen, or the garden, or sit in the old nursery where I had outgrown all of the toys―but Conrad was much friendlier. He could even be persuaded to join in a game of marbles or catch.

“Very well. Now, I’d like to change them to the silver suite, I think.”

On the day of the big visit, I was awakened early to bathe and be dressed by one of the queen’s maids who I only saw before state events. I had been hoping for a nice pink dress, or blue, or red, or anything pretty and not mourning black, but I was buttoned into a new black-wool dress and strapped into a new pair of shiny black shoes. I hadn’t been fitted for new shoes, so they must have used old measurements, and I had grown. My hair was brushed almost out of my scalp and tied back. As the maid was curling the ends of my hair, the queen came in and stood behind us, staring at me in the mirror.

“Snow White, do you remember what you’ll say the first time they ask where your father is?”

I gave the answer I’d rehearsed, “He’s busy with important work.”

“Very good. And if they ask when you saw him last?”

“Before I went to bed.”

“And what will you say about their attempt on his life?”

“Nothing at all.”

“Very good. Now the second time they ask you where he is . . .”

By the time Conrad came to bring me to the entrance hall, we had gone through all of my answers for eight sets of questions on Father’s absence. After that, she trusted me to mix up my responses. As Conrad led me out I could see myself in the mirror with my black dress and smoothed-out hair: the very image of a serious young princess, dutiful and quiet, and terribly uncomfortable.

We assembled in the front hall. Queen Calida greeted King Mathius formally, while I stood in her shadow. “King Stormblade is sorry he could not meet with you, but His Highness had . . . more pressing matters to attend to.”

Even I could hear the contempt in her tone. I wondered why I had to be polite if she could get away with that.

“If you would join me in the dining hall, I have arranged for some lunch.”

I saw Prince Alexander scratch at his neck. King Mathius tapped the back of the prince’s hand and he stopped. The king pulled off his riding gloves and looked for someplace to put them. No one stepped forward to take them, so he had to carry the dusty things with him into the dining hall.

We all sat around the table. With only four of us, it seemed huge. The prince was seated across from me. He was only a little older than I was. Another day, I might have invited him to see the frogs in the well, or the apple trees behind the kitchen, or maybe even offered to sneak him some fried sugar dough (not telling him how easy it was for me to get, of course) but I wasn’t feeling friendly. I was stuck wearing a scratchy black dress, and pinching black shoes that squeaked if I stepped wrong, and my face felt stretched from the tight knot my hair was in, and I think the curling iron had burned the top of my head—all for meeting these people. And I was pretty sure it was their fault I had Conrad following me around now.

I sat on my chair and stared at the tablecloth, giving one-word answers when King Mathius spoke to me directly and thumping my heel against the chair leg. I wanted to ask why he was called “King” like Father, but that would have meant I was showing an interest.

I perked up a bit when the tea came out, until I saw what it was: bread-and-butter sandwiches and celery sticks. I was prepared to blame the visitors for that too, but the prince looked as disappointed as I felt, and the king was glaring at the food like he wanted to punish it, but he was too polite to do that in public. Only the queen seemed pleased.

King Mathius tried conversation again. “Princess Snow White, what are you studying with your governess?”

I just stared at my hands.

The queen put a plate in front of me. “Now Princess, be polite. Answer the man.”

I sat there looking at the austere tea. How could she tell me to be polite when she was being so rude? “It’s all your fault. I wish you’d never come.”

The queen stared at me with that sugar-sweet smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “What in the world do you mean, child?”

“I wish you’d never come. Then Father would be here and we’d have cake with tea.”

The queen laughed in her condescending way. “Poor child,” she said more to King Mathius than to me. “Go down to the kitchen and see if Cook can find you some sugar cake. Tell her I sent you.”

The prince looked jealous as I scrambled out of my chair, but I didn’t invite him to join me. As I left the room, I heard the queen say, “You must forgive her, she doesn’t understand what she says,” and the buzz of agreeing voices.

Melba hadn’t made any sweet for tea, but when she heard the queen’s message, she pulled the bowls out again.

“How would you like to help me make a nice apple cake?”

I climbed up on the high kitchen stool and helped her measure and mix. Then I sat at the scrubbed wooden table and ate three pieces of cake, far more than I would have been allowed upstairs.

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New Cover- Maybe

So far still on schedule to have this out next month.  I’m closer to having a cover.  I’m not sure this is the final one, but it’s getting there.  Mainly unsure on the font.

 

I know if I try to give a firm date, something will go wrong, so for now, Mirror on the Wall is coming out next month.

 

My Next Book

Image

Early test/draft of what Snow will probably look like on the cover.

I know I’ve been neglecting my blog, but I’ve been concentrating on finishing my next book. It’s a novella (about 70 pages) and will probably be called Mirror on the Wall, and yes, it’s a Snow White story. Here’s a bit from the afterward I wrote:

When I decided to write this story, Snow White seemed to be turning up everywhere, but at a glance (and all I’ve seen so far is a glimpse of her in the trailers from the two films coming out), Snow doesn’t seem to be very much herself in them. Both movies look interesting, and I’m loving the show Once Upon a Time, but I wanted to see if I could make her interesting while sticking close to the character in the original story, no comedy, no action, no fairy tale mash-ups, just Snow White on her journey to grow up.

I think I managed to stay close to Snow White herself, but I did end up changing other things. I added a lot of characters, which wasn’t surprising since this story is much longer than the original tales.

And then there be spoilers 🙂  

So when will it be released? That is the question. Soon. It’s almost ready for final proofreading, then I have to format it. I was really hoping for this month, but next month might be more realistic. It will probably be ebook only for a little while, then I can give myself a little more time for the print formatting, which I think is easier, but also more nit-picky, or maybe that’s just me; I still like print books better. I am considering putting it in Amazon select for the minimum 90 days, which means the ebook would only be available on Amazon for 90 days, but I could make it free for five of those days. I’ve heard a lot of people having a lot of success with it, so I’m curious, and the next thing I’m planning on working on would not be a good candidate for it.

Image

A very early test of what a cover might look like, although the final one will probably look nothing like this.

 

Another Book Trailer

I am now all caught up on book trailers.  That’s right, I’ve finished one for Ella and the Panther’s Quest.  So I now need to write some more books 🙂  Here it is.

Random Links

I was hoping to have something else done for this week, but it isn’t.  Instead, here are a few links to things I’ve been interested in lately (probably part of the reason I didn’t finish what I was supposed to 🙂   Some of these you’ve probably seen other places, I’m usually a bit behind.

Joy of Books on YouTube.  I wish I could remember who’s blog I saw this video on (I know I meant to bookmark it) but it’s great stop-motion animation of what books get up to when we’re not watching.  Even though I finally bought a Kindle (thanks to a crazy black Friday sale at Target) I don’t think it will ever replace paper books for me.

Disney Princesses in Real Life.  Photo-manipulated portraits of Disney Princesses.  This one’s been around for a little while, but it’s gets added to every so often.  I think they might be more amazing now that I know they’re photo manipulation, not painted.

Michael Jackson Immortal.  Soundtrack to the Cirque de Soleil show (link goes to Amazon).  I bought this right when it came out (I knew I’d buy it sooner or later, may as well get it on release week sale) then put it aside, after all I knew it wouldn’t be as good as the originals (yes, I still buy cd’s of albums I really want for the pictures, the liner notes, and most of all, the lyrics)  I was in a music store (yes, they do still have those, although this one was closing) and I heard the track for Childhood, which was already one of my favorites, but adding him speaking actually made it better.  But my favorite of his quotes is in the beginning of the Mime Segment.  I don’t think you can hear them in the sound clips though, which is too bad.

Les Carnets de Miss Clara (Found via Sur la Lune fairy tale blog.)  Site of a French artist who does beautiful illustrations using detailed paper models and photography.  The site is in French, but even if you don’t understand the words, the pictures are well worth looking at.  My favorites quickly are the illustrations she did for Twelve Dancing Princesses (Le Bal des Douze Princesses, about 3/4 of the way down, in May, first one has blue gowns)

Downton Abbey.  I’ve gotten hooked again, although I like the first season better, before the War.  I wish they had stayed in that world a little longer.

Re-post: Photographs of Roman Ruins in Tours, France

Happy New Year!  And thank you to everyone who read this blog last year.  I was looking at page views to see what kinds of posts I should write more of this year, and this was the most viewed post on my blog last year.  I first posted it back in February.  

* * * 

 

I came across these pictures when I was going through photos of the Old City in Tours, France. (I needed those for description inspiration for Wizard at Pembrook, and don’t be surprised if they end up in another blog post about Tours.) I remember my friend and I stumbled upon these ruins not long after we had been on a walking tour of some part of town or another, where we had learned that you could make a pretty good guess at the era ruins came from by looking at the size of the stones- the smaller the stones, the older the ruins. We guessed these were Roman, and we were right.

Yes, we guessed before we saw the sign : )

I took a picture of the sign so I could look it up later, but there were too many other interesting things to investigate, and I never got around to it. Good thing I had the picture, since I have no idea how I would look up possibly-Roman-ruins-with-interesting-green-plants-somewhere-in-Tours-in-the-90’s.

The place is called “Jardin de St Pierre le Puellier” or “The Garden of St. Pierre le Pullier” in English. It’s one of those archaeologically layered places. There had been a 12th century church there, which is where the name comes from. The church was destroyed in the 19th century, although I think part of a wall is still there. Before that, there was a convent built by St. Clotilda, wife of King Clovis, in 512. And before that, it was part of the Gallo-Roman settlement (Gaul (old name for France) under Roman rule).

I darkened the sign to make it easier to read

The sign says on top, “wells from the 19th century, basement and retaining walls modern, tombs 12th and 13th century (years are hard to read there)” and on the bottom, “wall 1st century (again, hard to read), Gallo-Roman house 2nd and 3rd centuries” Trying to look at the diagram, I think the tombs are the small openings on the right, the red brick and stone by the steps are the modern wall.

The web page for the tourist bureau of Tours only mentions “remains of the bathes of a privet dwelling” by the royal chateau, so I assume those are these. All of the other Roman ruins mentioned are part of the walls surrounding the city or other fortifications, so not part of a Gallo-Roman house.

edited to add links to the other posts in this series

This is the book I was working on when I was researching Tours. Click to read the first few chapters

Photographs of Roman Ruins in Tours, France

Old City of Tours, France

Photos of the Cathedral St. Gatien de Tours, France

A Few Links to Tours

Not part of the Tours series, but still in the area

Villandry and Ella’s garden

Book Trailer for Fantasy Kingdom XXI

Here it is- the book trailer for Fantasy Kingdom XXI.  Enjoy!

Amazing Blanket

This is strictly a knitting post.  I finally got pictures taken of an entrelac afghan I made using self-striping yarn called Amazing by Lion Brand and I wanted to put them somewhere.  The pattern is based on this Knitting Daily scarf pattern, just bigger, and with 10 stitches and 20 rows per block.  I have smaller pictures up on Ravelry.com too (if you’re here from Ravelry- Hi!).  So here it is.

The yarn colorway names are below

1. Mauna Loa
2. Rainforest
3. Pink Sands
4. Joshua Tree
5. Wildflowers
6. Vineyard
7. Strawberry Fields
8. Ruby
9. Glacier Bay
10. Aurora
11. Olympia
12. Olive
13. Regatta

This is closer to the actual colors

 

Classics that Have Influenced Me

Another list of books I’ve liked.  Some of their influences are more obvious in my writing than others.  These are all classics, and the links will send you to Project Gutenberg.  If you’re not familiar with the site, they’ve been around forever, since before I had the web at least (I remember using the old text based Freenet to read books from them) and have digitized tons of classic, out of copyright books.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Brontë.  Wonderfully gothic atmosphere, a plain Jane (literally) who gets to be a romantic heroine, a dark and brooding hero.  In short, everything a good romance needs.  I think of The Wizard at Pembrook as my Jane Eyre book.

Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.  The other end of romances: light, frothy, drawing rooms and tea.  I’ve had a crush on Mr. Darcy since long before Colin Firth played him (although that certainly helped it along 🙂 )  Ella and the Panther’s Quest has a strong Pride and Prej. influence.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, Lewis Carroll.  Really two books, but my first copy (which I received when I was two) had both in it, so I think of them as one.  nonsense that makes perfect sense, well most of the time anyway (still not sure what a mome rath is or how it out grabes)

My Last Duchess, Robert Browning.  I short (very short) entry, but I love how you learn everything important about the speaker and his last wife, and even something about who he’s speaking to, without any of the important stuff being said directly.

The Works of William Shakespeare.  Everyone lists him because you’re supposed to, so I’ll be very specific.  For me he’s here because of his fools.  They’re funny and bit a crazy, but they’re also usually the only one who can see what’s really going on and, because they seem so harmless, they can tell the king (or whoever is in power) the truth that everyone else is afraid to.   They also seem to be the only one who can get close to the king.  It’s a type that comes up a lot, my favorite being Gene Sheldon’s Bernando in Zorro (I wish the Disney Channel still played that show)  If  you’re interested, my favorite plays are King Lear and Much Ado About Nothing.

Palaces and Pocketwatches

I have another blog just for this month where I am posting pictures I’ve made using Daz Studio, which is what I used to make the cover and the trailer for The Wizard at Pembrook.  If you’d like to check it out, it’s here

These are the first two images I posted.

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my web page is www.lisaannenisula.com copyright 2010, 2011 Lisa Anne Nisula
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